Electronic Voice Phenomena A History.
When investigating the paranormal, there is one thing that is paramount and that is communication. Communicating with spirits can be done is several ways, the use of a talking board or an Ouija Board, séances or the more commonly used EVP (electronic voice phenomena) experiments, but What is EVP? And how did it come about?
What is EVP?
Electronic Voice Phenomena or EVP are electronically generated noises that resemble speech but are not the result of intentional recordings or renderings. In layman’s terms, it means that EVP are noises that are recorded on an electronic device which could be mistaken or conceived as speech but not necessarily voice. EVP experiments are widely used during paranormal investigations but are not necessarily conducted properly or in a controlled environment, therefore a vast amount of the evidence caught during one of these experiments can be explained as a natural noise or interference.
When we start to think about EVP we need to look at where spirit communication really started and that was with Spiritualism. In America, in the 1800s it was believed that mediums could communicate with spirits through séances or table tipping. It really came into the public eye when the infamous Fox sisters claimed that they could communicate with the spirit world through rappings and tappings which made them very famous and this is believed to have led to the spiritualist movement. After many years, they did admit to the world that they had exaggerated the evidence and that they had been faking it, however by this point spiritualism had a massive eight million followers, therefore their admission to fakery was widely ignored.
As spiritualism gained momentum many famous faces came around to talk about their ideas and experiences, one of which being the famous inventor Thomas Edison, who during an interview with scientific America magazine in the 1920s stated that it may be possible to communicate with spirits using some of his inventions. He believed that if spirits were able to communicate using subtle devices such as table tipping or Ouija boards, perhaps if a device that was sensitive enough was created they could use that to communicate. However there is no evidence that Edison ever invented such a device and it was thought that the interview itself was very much a joke, and it was a way for Edison to see how people would react to such theories. As spiritualism grew so did the lust to try and catch spirit voices on a recording.
Two pioneers of EVP research were Konstantin Raudive and Fredrich Jergensen. Jergensen, a Swedish Film maker, when recording bird song believed that he could hear voices in the songs, in particular, his dead father and his wife, who he thought was calling his name. Raudive, a Latvian psychologist became interested in his claims and they began to work together, culminating in the Raudives book, “Breakthrough: An Amazing Experiment in Electronic Communication with the Dead” – 1971. As they completed experiments together, they came up with two different methods. One of which was Microphone recording, involving a microphone being linked up to a tape recorder, so they could ask questions and listen back to them on playback, the other method was radio recording. Raudive believed that if you tuned a radio between radio stations, spirits could communicate through them.
He also claimed that spirits spoke at twice the speed of human voices, therefore he could distinguish between human voices and spirit voices. He claimed that spirits could produce up to six different languages in one sentence. They claimed to have captured seventy-two thousand recordings. Because of his substantial claims, there has been a lot of interest and investigation into his claims up until the modern day. Imants Baruss a professor in the department of psychology at University of Western Ontario, Canada, published a paper in The Journal of Scientific Exploration in 2001. He wrote about Raudive and Jergensen’s two pioneering methods of using a tape recorder to capture spirit voices as well as using different Radio frequencies.
He conducted a number of experiments using Raudive’s methods concluding that he had failed to replicate EVP in a strong sense. Although they did record noises that sounded like voices, they were too few and far between to be conclusive and far too open to interpretation. Baruss came up with three possibilities for Raudive’s claims. He stated that previous research into the phenomena had miss led researchers and was caused by natural and psychological occurrences. He also claimed that the electronic equipment had been influenced and manipulated by the researchers, this includes the type and the quality of the equipment being used. He claimed that the researchers had modified the recordings, to enhance the audio, which they should not have done as it changed the sound of the recording and the quality. He finally suggested that EVP was being caused by a discarnate entity or spirit influencing the minds of the investigators. He looked into a possibility of a link between spirituality and the success rate of EVP captured, he claimed that maybe Mediums or psychics may catch better EVP.
Explanations and Origins of EVP
The best way to describe EVP is to look at it from two angles, one being paranormal which means that is in fact spirits of voices of the dead coming through an electronic device. Spirits are an intelligent entity and can answer questions and are aware of the investigators, they can interact with people and can communicate. We also have to look at the residual aspect, which includes the theory that if there is a traumatic event, then the environment absorbs the energy and replays it over and over, this is known as the Stone Tape Theory. A good example of this is the ghost of Anne Boleyn who is said to haunt up to seven different locations including The Tower of London, where she was beheaded. We can also look at psychokinesis, the power to manipulate electronic devices or the world around you with your mind. We also need to consider someone’s sub conscious and even Extra-terrestrial beings getting in contact.
The other angle to look at EVP is Psychology and perception. This means we have to consider Apophenia, seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random data, and Paradolia, seeing images or sounds in random stimuli which the brain falsely interprets random pattern as familiar. The best way to describe this is when you see shapes or face in clouds or in random objects. In terms of EVP, it could very well your brain hearing voices in random sounds. It is said that if you listen to a sound for long enough that your brain will eventually make up words to make sense of the sound. This is known as the Shower Effect where you can hear your name or a phone ringing or door ringing when you are in the shower.
There are of course natural explanations for EVP, such as the digital recorders that we use to record EVP can be influenced by radio waves. Similarly, if we were to use analogue tape recorders, it can record the sounds of the cogs or tapes moving, which can be interpreted as sounds, that’s is why we commonly use digital recorders. However even using digital recorders can come with further issues, such as interference from other objects for example baby monitors. Certain equipment like Baby monitors, taxi radios or walkie talkies contains RLC circuitry which can interfere with digital recorders.
Another theory is Cross Modulation, this is when you listen to a radio station for example and you hear a faint mumbling in the background, this is interference from another station filtering into the one you are listening to, EVP could simply be a radio station interfering with your digital recording.
Finally, the final theory could be something called Meteor Scattering. It happens every day when billions of little meteors break up in the atmosphere causing them to break up and send thousands or particles and electrons through the atmosphere. The trail is only around for a few seconds but it is long enough for it to reflect a signal back to a receiver from one end of the earth to the other. This time frame can vary from a few milliseconds to ten seconds. It is possible that we only pick up one word or even a sentence depending on the time that the trail is around for. One way to eliminate this is to isolate or insulate a recorder to ensure that there is no outside interference, however, this is not always possible during an investigation.
To conclude, there are several ways for us to explain what EVP is before we assume that it is the voices of the dead. Therefore when conducting an EVP experiment we must illuminate any possibility of outside interference and remain as sceptical as possible.
For more information on our views on EVP please visit our YouTube page and watch our talk on EVP at Spooks fest 2011 in York.